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Planning a Health Fair: Activity Ideas for Health Fairs

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Short Programs and Activities

Key to Suggested Target Audiences:

  • Grandparents: GP
  • Adults: A
  • All Audiences: ALL
  • Older Adults: O

Alternative Remedies (A, O)

Present a program on alternative medicine, such as vitamins, herbs, phytochemicals, homeopathic remedies, etc. A local massage therapist might be willing to give short chair massages for free. 

Health Care/Self Care (A, O)

Present a program on managing your health care. Here are some ideas:

  • How to select a doctor or clinic.
  • How to participate in making decisions with your health care professional.
  • Choosing the right kind of health care coverage (e.g., HMO, Preferred Provider, etc.).
  • Cutting health care costs—being a wise consumer of medical care.
  • Hand out a suggested reading list on managing your own health. 

Heart Disease Prevention (ALL)

Contact the American Heart Association [http://www.americanheart.org/]
at (800) AHA-USA1for assistance in developing a heart disease prevention activity that targets baby boomers and that can be done at the health fair.

Physical Activity (ALL)

Have a local aerobics, fitness, or karate expert provide a free, participatory activity, such as beginning step aerobics, or the advantages of strength training, etc. Try contacting your local YMCA for this and other related programs. Or call the YMCA at (800) 872-9622 to gain information.

Ask an exercise physiologist, sports trainer, or physical therapist to speak on how to buy appropriate walking shoes or exercise equipment, what sports drinks are best or how to make your own sports drinks, learning to find your target heart rate, safely exercising in heat and cold extremes, or how to start a walking club.

Women’s Health (ALL)

Contact a local health provider to present a program on managing menopause, including information on estrogen replacement therapy.

Stress Management (ALL)

Try the Ping Pong Ball Balance Activity. For this activity, you will need a plastic dish pan (filled 1/2 full with lukewarm water), a small hand towel, and 20 ping pong balls labeled as follows: promotion, relocation, parenthood, divorce, lay off, death, injury, illness, retirement, financial change, occupation change, law violation, begin or end of school, sex difficulties, marriage, pregnancy, mortgage over $50,000, alcohol, drugs, depression.


Ask a participant to assist in the demonstration. Instruct the participant that as you drop ping pong balls into the dish pan, he/she is to keep the balls under the surface of the water with his/her hands (both hands may be used).

Read each ping pong ball as you drop it into the water. Explain to the group that struggling to keep the balls under the water is like trying to hold down all of the stressors with no resolution. We are able to keep some control over a few stressors, but as they accumulate and begin to build, it often becomes difficult to contain and control them.

As balls are being dropped into the water, encourage the volunteer to share any feelings or frustrations he/she might be experiencing in trying to keep the balls down. Allow the volunteer to dry his/her hands and sit down.

Pull a few of the balls out and read the labels. Ask for suggestions on how to manage or prevent such stressors. Provide a handout with some suggestions.

Tobacco Use Prevention (ALL)

Try these activities with health fair participants:

Grasping for Air

Almost all cases of emphysema are due to cigarette smoking. The Gasping for Air activity will help participants to understand what it feels like to have emphysema.

Materials: one wrapped straw for each participant.

Participation: Give each participant a straw, and ask them to remove the wrapping. Have each participant place the straw in his/her mouth. Ask each participant to pinch his/her nostrils closed and breathe only through the straw in the mouth.

Caution: Explain that if any difficulty exists with breathing, they can stop the activity at any time.

Next: Participants are to breathe through the straw for one minute. After about 30 seconds, and continuing to breathe only through the straw, have participants look around at each other. (This should cause some laughing while still attempting to breathe through the straw.)

Experience: After the minute is up, ask participants to describe what is was like to breathe through the straw. (They will tell you it was difficult to breathe.) Explain that this is what it feels like to breathe when a person has emphysema. Ask them if it was harder to breathe through the straw when they started laughing. Ask them to consider how difficult it might be to go up a flight of stairs (or do other common activities) if they had to breathe like this.

You could also have two sponges to demonstrate why someone with emphysema has such a hard time breathing. One sponge should be moist and the other hard. The moist sponge is like a healthy lung filled with air sacs. The dry sponge is like the lung of someone with emphysema. A healthy lung (moist sponge) can easily bring oxygen into the air sacs (alveoli) and force carbon dioxide out of the air sacs. A lung with emphysema (hard sponge) cannot do this; trapped carbon dioxide stays in the lungs, making the person feel like they are starved for air.

Smoke in the Air

This activity only takes 5 minutes and is a good way to help people understand the implications of second-hand smoke.

Materials: spray bottle filled with water; tar-stained handkerchief.

Demonstration: Spray water from the spray bottle into the air as you move around the room.

Participation: Ask participants how they would react if they thought you were spraying perfume? A deadly poison? A virus? Tobacco smoke?

Demonstration: Show participants the handkerchief through which a smoker has exhaled tobacco smoke (be sure to have a smoker do this ahead of time).

Explanation: Explain that the tar in the tobacco smoke made the stains. The smoke in the handkerchief had already been in the lungs of the smoker. Ask what this tells the non-smoker about exhaled smoke from smokers? (It is harmful to everyone.)

Explain that second-hand smoke is the smoke that’s in the air when tobacco is being smoked. Nicotine is also present in the second-hand smoke. Tar, nicotine, and other harmful substances in tobacco smoke pose a health threat to nearby non-smokers (adults, children, even family pets are affected).

Jar of Tar

This activity demonstrates how much tar goes into the lungs of a smoker in one year.

Materials: Clear jar with a lid. One cup of molasses poured into the jar.

Demonstration: Hold the jar with the 1 cup of molasses.

Participation: Ask participants how long would it take for a 1 pack a day smoker to get this much tar in their lungs. Ask participants what tar has to do with smokers’ cough.

Explanation: This is how much tar enters the lungs of a 1 pack a day smoker in one year. Tar contains the substances that cause damage to lungs resulting in problems like emphysema and lung cancer. Tars also cause damage to the hair cells or cilia in the respiratory tract, causing the hairs to be flat instead of standing up and sending mucus back up the tract. Mucus collects, and the smoker has to cough to get the mucus out. This is what causes the smokers’ cough.

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  • Montana State Library
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  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
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  • msl.mt.gov